West Ridge 5.6

 
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Mt. Conness


Tuolumne Meadows, California USA


Trip Report
West Ridge of Mt. Conness
Friday July 23, 2010 2:22pm
This is another one I've wanted to do for a while .. since 2006. Twice I've made the approach from Saddlebag Lake, and for one reason or another we decided to turn back. It eventually became clear to me that the logistics were such that if I was going to do this route it would have to be solo. I had some time mid week and the weather was looking perfect.

Wednesday I drove up from SJ and did a warmup -- west face of Cockscomb (11065'). Beautiful afternoon to be out. Near Budd Lake I greeted a lone dude practically running across the meadow. He was doing the Cathedral traverse. There was still snow on the saddle between Echo Ridge and Cockscomb, but it was soft in the afternoon.

Cockscomb (11065') from near Budd Lake
Cockscomb (11065') from near Budd Lake
Credit: rhyang

Great views of Matthes Crest too -

Matthes Crest, from near Cockscomb
Matthes Crest, from near Cockscomb
Credit: rhyang

I scrambled up one of the chimneys and then the west summit. The east summit "fin" may or may not be the higher one.

West Face of Cockscomb
West Face of Cockscomb
Credit: rhyang

Maybe next time I'll do the fin, but I wasn't really feeling up to it, having come from sea level to 11000' that morning :) There were some great views of Cathedral Peak and from what I could tell the descent gully on Conness was probably dry.

Cathedral Peak and Budd Lake
Cathedral Peak and Budd Lake
Credit: rhyang

West Ridge of Mt. Conness, from near Cockscomb
West Ridge of Mt. Conness, from near Cockscomb
Credit: rhyang

Next morning I started from Saddlebag Lake around daybreak and made my way towards the tarn east of Alpine Lake and the east ridge of Conness.

Alpenglow on the approach
Alpenglow on the approach
Credit: rhyang

There were still snowfields above 11500' and I was glad to have brought an ice axe -- it was cold enough in the morning that some standing water had frozen, especially in the shade.

Snowfields above 11500' on the approach to the east ridge
Snowfields above 11500' on the approach to the east ridge
Credit: rhyang

I wasn't moving particularly fast, and the snow softened in the sun.

Around 11800' -- the summit plateau is in top center.  The snow up the...
Around 11800' -- the summit plateau is in top center. The snow up there was easily avoidable.
Credit: rhyang

The North Ridge looked good.

start of the North Ridge of Mt. Conness
start of the North Ridge of Mt. Conness
Credit: rhyang

I slogged up the loose ledges towards the summit plateau, and topped out near a snow tongue and a huge cairn. This was the closest I'd been to it since 2006, when a friend and I did the North Ridge.

Mt. Conness summit, from the plateau
Mt. Conness summit, from the plateau
Credit: rhyang

There wasn't much snow on the plateau itself, and some guys I met up on the summit told me that a lot had melted off over the last two weeks. A use trail led down to the descent gully, again marked by a gigantic cairn. Gain 2500', lose 1400', here we go -

SW Face of Mt. Conness (drool, drool)
SW Face of Mt. Conness (drool, drool)
Credit: rhyang

Looking up descent gully from near base of West Ridge
Looking up descent gully from near base of West Ridge
Credit: rhyang

There were some snow patches in the talus below, but nothing really major. At long last, I made my way to the base of the West Ridge.

Looking up from the base of the West Ridge
Looking up from the base of the West Ridge
Credit: rhyang

The approach from Young Lakes didn't look too bad. Maybe next time ..

Young Lakes, from west ridge of conness
Young Lakes, from west ridge of conness
Credit: rhyang

Roosevelt Lake, from west ridge conness
Roosevelt Lake, from west ridge conness
Credit: rhyang

I'd read Peter Croft's description and several trip reports on the taco over the years .. the left side sounded like the way for me :) I put on my tape gloves and up I went, trying not to get into too much trouble too quickly, warming up the climbing muscles slowly.

The route was beautiful, lots of good rock and great holds. Oh. My. Pretty soon I was looking down the first pitch or two.

Looking down start of West Ridge
Looking down start of West Ridge
Credit: rhyang

Right fork on start of West Ridge
Right fork on start of West Ridge
Credit: rhyang

Soon I came to the "exposed" part. Wow. WOW !!

Yes, this is on the route :)
Yes, this is on the route :)
Credit: rhyang

more fun exposure on the West Ridge
more fun exposure on the West Ridge
Credit: rhyang

West Ridge fun !
West Ridge fun !
Credit: rhyang

Looking down the West Ridge
Looking down the West Ridge
Credit: rhyang

Where has this route been all my life ?? :) Now I see what all the fuss is about. At some point the route ended and all there was left was a class 2-3 scramble to the summit. I changed back into my approach shoes and headed up.

A couple of dudes got up there minutes before I did. They were all like "which way did YOU come up ??" They'd come up one of the chutes from the glacier, after kayaking Saddlebag Lake and camping. We gazed off at distant peaks and took the usual dorky pictures.

Me on the summit of Mt. Conness
Me on the summit of Mt. Conness
Credit: rhyang

The weather was flawless. Nonetheless after having my usual summit chocolate bar I decided to descend. It always amazes me how convenient the granite steps are down to the summit plateau. I wonder about the history of those -- surely someone on the taco knows something :)

The snow on the descent was nice and soft for plunge-stepping as I made my way back to Alpine Lake.

snow on the descent back to Alpine Lake
snow on the descent back to Alpine Lake
Credit: rhyang

Alpine Lake
Alpine Lake
Credit: rhyang

The picaridin I'd applied early in the morning was no match for the mosquito horde. But there are few places I'd rather be than Tuolumne in the summer.

  Trip Report Views: 5,134
rhyang
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Comments
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atchafalaya

Boulder climber
  Jul 23, 2010 - 02:59pm PT
Sweet TR Rhyang. Thanks,
Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer

Trad climber
  Jul 23, 2010 - 05:07pm PT
Awesome TR. Also on my list to routes to do. Thanks for sharing.
freerider

climber
  Jul 23, 2010 - 05:28pm PT
awesome!getting me really psyched...
just_one

Mountain climber
CA
  Jul 23, 2010 - 05:56pm PT
Nice job! One of my favorite routes. Can't wait to do it again now.
Dirka

Trad climber
Hustle City
  Jul 23, 2010 - 08:06pm PT
Bump! Good route!
nutjob

Sport climber
Almost to Hollywood, Baby!
  Jul 23, 2010 - 09:08pm PT
Thanks for sharing! Yet another on the long list of things I'll do some day....
murcy

Gym climber
sanfrancisco
  Jul 23, 2010 - 10:40pm PT
Many thanks---great TR!!
Mike Bolte

Trad climber
Planet Earth
  Jul 24, 2010 - 12:55pm PT
great TR - wonderful day out. Thanks
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  Jul 24, 2010 - 01:14pm PT
Excellent Excellent Excellent!

I LOVE that mountain! Did the Harding route on the face, seems like a million years ago, even though it wasn't quite that long.....
Roxy

Trad climber
CA Central Coast
  Jul 24, 2010 - 01:38pm PT
Awesome! Great share, thanks!
Jaybro

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
  Jul 24, 2010 - 04:14pm PT
Congrats on a cool adventure! Another one for the list, Thanks.
Wade Icey

Trad climber
www.alohashirtrescue.com
  Jul 28, 2010 - 12:47pm PT
mmmmnuh
cleo

Social climber
wherever you go, there you are
  Jul 28, 2010 - 02:21pm PT
Excellent! West Ridge has been on my list for years, though I'm not brave enough to solo it!

Les

Trad climber
Bahston
  Jul 29, 2010 - 10:22am PT
beautiful pics! man, the High Sierra truly is God's country.
le_bruce

climber
Oakland, CA
  Aug 2, 2010 - 03:15pm PT
This TR was honey to my soul - thanks for posting. My thoughts always drift toward Conness in summer.

I thought that the Cockscomb had some sketchier/harder sections than the West Ridge of Conness, but I was moving East to West.

Hmm, yes, memory banks now kicking in: east face of Cockscomb was spooky for me.
Sascha

climber
Oakland, CA
  Aug 2, 2010 - 06:55pm PT
Awesome TR, thank you! That route has been on my list for years, and I've wondered if soloing is perhaps the way to go. How would you compare it to the first two pitches of Matthes Crest (south end)?
Zander

climber
  Aug 2, 2010 - 07:44pm PT
Nice one. I would like to do this route sometime.
Thanks for posting,
Zander
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Mt. Conness - West Ridge 5.6 - Tuolumne Meadows, California USA. Click to Enlarge
One of Tuolumne's finest ridge climbs.
Photo: Greg Barnes
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Mt. Conness - North Ridge 5.6 - Tuolumne Meadows, California USA. Click for details.
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Mt. Conness - Southwest Face 5.10c - Tuolumne Meadows, California USA. Click for details.
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Tuolumne's proudest face.